History of the Ex-CBI Roundup

(The following is an excerpt from the article, "CBI Roundup, Ex-CBI Roundup and the Future" which appeared in the June 2008 issue of the Ex-CBI Roundup and has been updated to reflect the end of the publication of this great magazine.)

CBI Roundup, Ex-CBI Roundup and the Future

by Gary Goldblatt

Portions of this article are reproduced from "AT LONG LAST - ROUNDUP'S OWN STORY" by Sgt E. Gartly Jaco, Roundup Feature Editor (IBT Roundup, April 11, 1946), and "The Fishwrapper" by Boyd Sinclair, former editor of the India-Burma Theater Roundup (Ex-CBI Roundup, July 1952 issue).

CBI Roundup Gets Its Start...

On an April day in 1942 at Maymyo, Burma near General Stilwell's headquarters, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, Capt Fred Eldridge, huddled in a foxhole. With him was Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce. Twenty-seven Jap bombers were dropping bombs across the town. Capt. Eldridge was telling Mrs. Luce about his dream of starting an Armed Forces newspaper in the Far East.

It would be some months before Capt. Eldridge's dream was to be realized, but on September 17, 1942, the first issue of the CBI Roundup, later known by GIs over Asia as "The Fishwrapper", became a reality.

Capt. Eldridge hurried and waited a lot before he got out that first edition. There wasn't much time to think about newspapers on the march out of Burma with Gen. Stilwell, and it was summer before Capt. Eldridge had time to begin his planning. Early on a June morning, just before Gen. Stilwell left for Chungking, Capt. Eldridge told Colonel Frank (Pinky) Dorn, the general's aide, he wanted to start a paper. Col. Dorn got the go-ahead verbally from Gen. Stilwell.

However, Capt. Eldridge had no staff, and newsprint was rationed in India. He had no idea who would print a paper. He first thought about The Statesman, an Indian daily published in New Delhi and Calcutta. The Statesman building was only a few blocks from CBI headquarters. Capt. Eldridge walked over. He met with Mr. James Kewley Cowley, the editor. In 15 minutes Mr. Cowley and Capt. Eldridge agreed on everything. Cowley even agreed to lend newsprint, subject to replacement from the United States.

Even so, there was still to be a delay before publication. An officer with authority decided there would be no paper because there was nothing in writing. Stilwell was in China, and Capt. Eldridge decided it would be futile to write to him through channels. After two months, Capt. Eldridge wrote a 2,000 word message to Colonel Dorn. The result was a radiogram from Gen. Stilwell.

"Let Eldridge have his paper," it authorized.

All opposition removed, a radiogram went to Washington for newsprint. Capt. Eldridge didn't want to guarantee The Statesman newsprint would be replaced until Washington sent word that newsprint was coming. Capt. Eldridge suggested a tracer of the radiogram be sent.

"Be calm, sonny," was the reply. "We'll hear any day now."

Gen. Stilwell came to New Delhi while Capt. Eldridge was waiting for "any day." He asked Eldridge where his newspaper was. The captain's weak reply brought on language sauced with the well-known vinegar. A tracer to the radiogram was sent. The reply promised newsprint.

The next item of business was selecting a name for the paper. Capt. Eldridge suggested The Asiatic Tiger but this was not well received. Stilwell said that 20 names should be submitted and he would make the final decision. Brigadier General William Powell's suggestion - CBI Roundup - was accepted. Colonel Dorn suggested the theater shoulder patch, carrying the Koumintang Sun and the Star of India, be reproduced on the masthead.

Capt. Eldridge, with the help of Indian printers for The Statesman and despite some difficulties, the first issue of the CBI Roundup was published on September 17, 1942, the first overseas theater newspaper in World War II.

Capt. Eldridge stated Roundup's policies as: "The C.B.I. Roundup is your newspaper. It is written for you, by you and filled with news and pictures all of which have been either procured originally or edited by Army personnel. Whether or not, chums, this little sheet ever becomes worthy of wrapping Friday's fish will depend in a large measure on your interest. Your stories and pictures are sought. Your letters of criticism or praise are eagerly solicited." This basic policy has been carried on to today.

Gen. Stilwell wrote the following in Roundup's second issue on Sept. 24, 1942:

"The main purpose of this paper is to keep the command informed of what is going on at home and in the other theaters of war. We are a long way out, the mail is slow, and all censors are crabs, so Roundup should help materially to fill in the gaps. It's your paper, so feel free to contribute to it. If you have a gripe, write a letter to the editor. If you can run the paper better than he can, tell him so, but watch out that he doesn't put you on the staff and make you prove it. He is looking for ideas and if he can't find them, the Roundup won't be quite what we want it to be - the most readable sheet in the Far East..."

In January, 1945, shortly after the CBI was separated into the India-Burma and China Theaters, distribution of the Roundup in China was discontinued, being replaced there by the China Lantern. Many individual requests for copies of Roundup were frequently received from China-based troops, speaking well of the reception the Roundup received.

At its peak in the fall of 1945, circulation reached 120,000 weekly copies: 20,000 in the Delhi area and 100,000 in the Calcutta area, which supplied the intermediate and forward areas. This gradually declined after V-J Day and the decrease in Theater personnel. Through the final edition of the CBI Roundup on April 11, 1946 approximately 6,000,000 copies were published. When the Roundup ceased publication, a smaller paper called the Chota Roundup was published for the few men left in CBI. Sgt E. Gartly Jaco was its first and only editor.

Enter the Ex-CBI Roundup...

The Ex-CBI Roundup was designated the official publication for the CBI Veterans Association (CBIVA) during the National CBIVA Reunion held in Milwaukee, WI in August, 1948. The Ex-CBI Roundup was first issued by Mr. Clarence R. Gordon of Denver, CO in December, 1946, primarily as a newsletter for members of the 44th Air Service Group. The publication soon expanded to include all former CBI units and personnel.

Originally published quarterly (1947 - June 1950), demand for the magazine and the dedication of the editors and staff prompted them to publish the magazine bi-monthly from September 1950 - August 1953. From September 1953 - December 1956, the magazine was published monthly, until the current format was established in 1957 whereby the editor and staff granted themselves a summer vacation, taking a break in August and September of each year.

Mr. Neil Maurer assumed the editorship of the Ex-CBI Roundup in 1958 and moved the operation to Laurens, IA, where Mr. Maurer also owned a print shop. The Ex-CBI Roundup continued on from its headquarters in Northwest Iowa for the next 24 years, until Mr. Maurer relinquished control of the publication to Mr. Dwight King in 1982. Dwight also edited and published the Ex-CBI Roundup for 24 years until his passing in July, 2006. At that point Dwight's son Clark assumed editorial responsibilities for the Ex-CBI Roundup and edited the magazine until publication ended with the July 2009 issue.

Summary of the Ex-CBI Roundup Issues...

1946:December only
1947 - June 1950:Quarterly (March, June, September, December)
September 1950 - August 1953:Bi-monthly
September 1953 - 1956:Monthly
1957 - July 2009:Monthly except August & September

With the Ex-CBI Roundup ending publication in July 2009, there will have been 600 issues published!  This is by far the longest-running WWII publication.

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